10 Dead Child Actors

Friday, July 22 by Andrew Jett

Several of these 10 dead child actors’ fates can serve as a warning. There’s a seedy underbelly in Hollywood, and many child actors become consumed by the town’s fickle nature. Money, drugs and psychological torment too often outweigh a child actor’s potential, and the results can be devastating.

  1. Gary Coleman As the pint-sized Arnold Jackson in the 1980’s TV series “Diff’rent Strokes,” this dead child actor stole America’s heart with his adorable quips. Coleman suffered from a host of financial and health issues after his show ended in 1986, not the least of which was an autoimmune kidney disease which limited his height to under five feet. This child actor died in May of 2010.
  2. Brad Renfro In the 1994 film “The Client,” this dead child actor was showing signs of his acting potential. Renfro went on to garner acclaim for roles in memorable films like “Sleepers” and “Ghost World,” but substance abuse eventually got the better of him. He died of a drug overdose in January of 2008.
  3. Jonathan Brandis In a career that spanned TV and film appearances, this dead child actor brought innocence and vulnerability to every script he encountered. Most remembered for his role in the TV series “seaQuest DSV” from 1993 to 1996, Brandis’ career took a slow but steady decline after its cancelation. This child actor met a tragic end when he took his own life in November of 2003.
  4. Corey Haim No one did teen heartthrob in the late 1980’s like this dead child actor. Alongside fellow child actor Corey Feldman, Haim starred in a string of teenage buddy comedies that brought him success and fame, most notably 1988’s “License To Drive.” This child actor’s career took a dip in the 1990’s, but he had been appearing more steadily in the public eye before his death in March of 2010.
  5. River Phoenix Perhaps the most talented of these ten dead child actors, Phoenix showed early promise in 1986’s “Stand By Me,” playing a troubled young boy. This child actor gained full teen idol status in the early 90’s, but his life ended unexpectedly due to a drug overdose on Halloween in 1993.
  6. Dana Plato Like Gary Coleman, this dead child actor gained fame on the 1980’s TV series “Diff’rent Strokes.” After the show, Plato’s career opportunities dried up, and she took roles in increasingly seedy productions. In May of 1999, this child actor died from an overdose of prescription drugs.
  7. Bobby Driscoll From the mid-1940’s to the mid-1950’s, this dead child actor was the golden boy of the Disney company. Driscoll’s many successful projects included “Treasure Island” in 1950 and the title voice in 1953’s “Peter Pan.” In March of 1968, after being out of the public eye for years, this child actor’s body was found in a deserted building in New York City.
  8. Carl Switzer You may not recognize the name, but this dead child actor was one of the most popular and endearing showbiz personalities from 1935 to 1940. Playing Alfalfa in the “Our Gang” series of shorts, Switzer was a welcome onscreen presence for viewers across the country. This child actor died from a gunshot wound during an argument with a business associate in January 1959.
  9. Scotty Beckett Like Carl Switzer, this dead child actor got his start on the “Our Gang” series. Beckett’s career took off after “Our Gang,” and he appeared in several major movies. His death in May of 1968 was shrouded in mystery.
  10. Jackie Coogan Ending this list of ten dead child actors on somewhat of a happy note, Coogan managed to avoid major controversy throughout his long Hollywood career. Most notably starring alongside Charlie Chaplin in 1921’s “The Kid,” this child actor had a long and productive run in show business, concluding with his death in March of 1984.